Former Minister of Social Development Dr Zola Skweyiya at a media briefing for child protection week in 2006. PHOTO: Dumisani Sibeko / ANA
CAPE TOWN - The late Zola Skweyiya was a natural democrat who truly believed in the Freedom Charter declarations that South Africa "belongs to all who live in it" and that "the people shall govern", retired Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs said on Wednesday.

Sachs released a statement on behalf of the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation, of which he is a trustee, paying tribute to Skweyiya who passed away after a short illness, aged 75, on Wednesday morning.

"If ever there was a stalwart, it was Zola Skweyiya," said Sachs.

Sachs recalled how in 1986, then African National Congress (ANC) president Oliver Tambo appointed Skweyiya as deputy chairman of the ANC's Constitutional Committee. He later became chairman of the committee and played a major role in laying the groundwork for what was to become the South African Constitution, said Sachs.

"Hard-working, collegial, with a strongly independent and critical mind, he never sought the limelight for himself. Behind a demeanour that could appear stern at times was a person of great generosity with a sharp sense of humour," said Sachs.

"A thoughtful, organised and creative intellectual combatant in the Oliver Tambo mould, he fought against injustice, selfishness and abuse of power his whole life. His influence lives on in the Constitution to which he contributed so much. We miss him sorely." 

African News Agency/ANA